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Exhibition: Alcohol

  • Scientific drawing of the plant Vitis Vinifera (grape vine)

    Vitus vinifera from William Woodville, Medical botany: containing systematic and general descriptions, 1832

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    botanical iconBOTANICAL, Vitus vinifera

    57 Vitus Vinifera Published by Phillipe…

  • Civil war soldiers in winter are standing drinking from a barrel whiskey and quinine.

    A. W. Warren, “Before Petersburg—Issuing Rations of Whisky and Quinine,” Harper’s Weekly, 1865

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    curative iconCURATIVE, Whiskey Cure

    During the 1800s, many physicians endorsed the medicinal properties of wine, beer, and liquor as a treatment for malaria, to improve overall feelings of well-being, and to retain youthful vigor, if taken in specific doses for certain disorders. During the Civil War, military leaders issued whisky and quinine to soldiers.

  • BA graph labeling wellness and vice based on alcohol consumption.

    “A Moral and Physical Thermometer” in Benjamin Rush, An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits upon the Human Body and Mind, 1784

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    curative iconCURATIVE, Risky Remedy

    Dr. Benjamin Rush, a prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was so concerned about the dangers of alcohol that he predicted great risk to the future of the new republic caused by drunken voters.

    A MORAL AND PHYSICAL THERMOMETER
    A scale of the progress of Temperance and Intemperance. – Liquors with effects in their usual order.
    TEMPERANCE.
    Health and Wealth.
    70,60,50,40,30,20,10,0
    Water, Milk and Water, Small Beer, Cider and Perry, Wine, Porter, Strong Beer, Serenity of Mind, Reputation, Long Life, and Happiness.
    Cheerfulness, Strength, and Nourishment, when taken only small quantities, and at meals.
    0,10,20,30,40,50,60,70
    Punch, Toddy and Egg Run, Grog- Brandy and Water,
    Flip and Shrub, Butters infused in Spirits and Cordials.
    Drams of Gin, Brandy and Run, in the morning,
    The same morning and evening, The same during the day and night
    VICES.
    Idleness, Gaming, Peevishness, Quarrelling, Fighting, Horse Racing, Lying and Swearing, Stealing and Swindling, Perjury, Burglary, Murder,
    DISEASES.
    Sickness, Tremors of the hands in the morning, puking, bloatedness, Inflamed eyes, red nose and face, Sore and swelled legs, jaundice, Pains in the hands, burning in the hands and feet, Dropsy, Epilepsy, Melancholy, palsy, apoplexy for Life, Madness, Despair,
    PUNISHMENTS.
    Debt. Jail. Black Eyes and Rags. Hospital or Poor House. Bridewell. State Prison. GALLOWS.

  • A man is laying down while being fed a drink by a woman in the middle of a junglescape.

    “Ayer's Ague Cure is Warranted to Cure Fever & Ague and All Malarial Disorders,” 1800s

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    market iconMARKET, Peddling Miracles

    Manufacturers of patent medicines, which were sold directly to the public without a physician’s prescription, realized the popularity of alcohol-based remedies. J. C. Ayer marketed a number of different tonics that included alcohol for a variety of ailments, including the Ayer’s Ague Cure for malaria.

    Ayer’s Ague Cure is Warranted to Cure Fever & Ague and All Malarial Disorders

  • Bayou scene with a log cabin while an alligator and 2 toads sip from a glass bottle.

    “Ayer's Ague Cure is Warranted to Cure Fever & Ague and All Malarial Disorders,” 1800s

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

    market iconMARKET, Peddling Miracles

    Manufacturers of patent medicines, which were sold directly to the public without a physician’s prescription, realized the popularity of alcohol-based remedies. J. C. Ayer marketed a number of different tonics that included alcohol for a variety of ailments, including the Ayer’s Ague Cure for malaria.

    Ayer’s Ague Cure is Warranted to Cure All Malarial Disorders
    Prepared by Dr. J.C. Ayer & CO. Lowell Mass.

  • Woman sitting in café pouring alcohol into her glass from a hollowed out cane.

    During Prohibition, a woman smuggles a personal serving of “giggle water” or alcohol in a hollow cane to add to her drink, 1922

    Courtesy Library of Congress

    consumer iconCONSUMER, Revelry

    Men and women, and all classes of people have imbibed to celebrate events such as the completion of a town hall or church, to greet the arrival of visitors, or to relieve stress. Some would go to extra lengths to enjoy their drink.

  • Black and white photograph of police officers overseeing the pouring out of alcohol.

    Agents pour liquor into a New York City sewer following a raid during Prohibition, ca. 1921

    Courtesy Library of Congress

    prohibitive iconPROHIBITIVE, Wet vs Dry

    The temperance movement was fueled by moral concerns over the perils of alcohol consumption as well as anti-immigrant anxieties about drinking among Irish tavern-goers, German brewers, and others. After decades of debate, the government introduced national prohibition in 1919. The law proved impossible to enforce and was repealed in 1933.

In colonial America, home-brewed beer was popular among farmers and the working class and came to accompany a wide range of special events. Many physicians were enthusiastic about the medicinal properties of alcohol. As critics began to note the deleterious effects of frequent indulgence, reformers lobbied for tighter restrictions on the sale and purchase of alcoholic beverages. When prohibition outlawed alcohol manufacture and consumption, physicians retained the right to administer it by medical prescription.

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